Pain At Pump Goes Public

Running the family car has been an expensive proposition of late.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, average prices at the pump in the United States have leveled off since 2010 between two and three dollars per-gallon following a steady rise to a high of $4.12 in 2008, from a price averaging around $1 per gallon in the 1990s, and a precipitous drop to $1.59, also in 2008.

It’s been a steep jump from approximately $1 to between $3 and $4 today. One that has outpaced inflation and far outpaced stagnant wages.

The increase can be hard enough for families to account, but imagine running an entire fleet of vehicles.

The situation has left many people, whether they’re running a household or organizing a larger venture, scrambling to find ways to save on fuel.

The Transit Authority of Warren County (TAWC) is no different.

An atmosphere of ever-tighter government budgets matched with rising fuel prices poses a special challenge for those providing public transportation and TAWC is looking into the possibility of finding alternative means of fueling their fleet.

“We’re spending somewhere around $15,000 per-month for fuel,” Transit authority Chairman Thomas Hessley said. “We feel an obligation to reduce this.”

To that end, TAWC is looking into the possibility of converting and, as their useful life declines, replacing vehicles to utilize compressed natural gas (CNG). As an extension, it is also looking into the feasibility of constructing a CNG fuel station.

“If you look at the price of compressed natural gas, it’s about half of that of gasoline,” Hessley noted.

As of Monday afternoon, the price per-gallon of regular gasoline in Warren averaged $3.57 across the country and was selling at a price of $3.39 per-gallon at most locations in Warren.

By contrast, the national average price per-gallon equivalent for CNG stood at $2.07 and nearby stations in the Brookville and Buffalo areas were reporting prices of approximately $2.25 and $1.90 per-gallon equivalent respectively.

According to Hessley, TAWC has already spoken with a number of entities with possible interest in a CNG station locally, including business that are possible CNG users, CNG suppliers and CNG equipment and conversion vendors.

“There are probably ten different groups that have expressed interest,” Hessley said.

Setting up an initial station could be expensive however.

According to Hessley, initial cost estimates obtained by TAWC from the Crawford County region cited a price of between one and one-and-a-half million dollars for setup. A more recent, local consultation lowered the estimate substantially, citing a figure of approximately $200,000.

Hessley noted a need to weigh the upfront costs with the long-term benefits of such a proposition.

“We’re not looking at this for immediate usage,” he said, pointing out that TAWC’s vehicles are not all designed in a manner that makes conversion possible, but that as vehicle age they can be replaced.

TAWC will be holding a meeting at 1 p.m. on Aug. 22 in the transit authority building’s board room at 42 Clark St. for entities and individuals with an interest in exploring the possibilities for CNG usage.